Miscellaneous Religion Materials

A Map of Life

Author(s): 
Frank Sheed
Copyright: 
1933
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
144 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a really beautiful little book about morality and the Catholic Faith. It would make a great supplement for high school age or excellent reading for an adult. It's not too difficult to understand, but also interesting and really makes you think.

The author has this to say about the purpose of this book:

A traveler through life gets vivid – sometimes extremely vivid impressions of things near at hand: confused impressions of things seen at a distance or only heard of: but of the whole plan of life, no idea at all. In his mind will be a jumble of facts, tossed about in any order – God, sin, church-going, disease, sacraments, suffering, the treason of friends, hostilities, death and the fear of death, money and the loss of it, God-made-man – and so on without end. But which of these things are big things and which of them are little, he will not know with certainty: the things that have come nearest to himself will seem big things: the remoter things will seem small.

And of the relations of these things one to another – how one thing agrees with, or conflicts with, another – of all this, merely by dint of living, he will have only the most confused and uncertain impression. In fact it may easily happen that a man who merely lives, and neither reflects nor is taught, does not even suspect relationships, but thinks of all things as accidents with no reason in themselves save that they happened, and no connection with each other save that one cam earlier and one came later. Because of this confusion, I propose to try to make what may roughly be called a map of life.

This is a great book to use for a group teen discussion. When I was being homeschooled for high school, a friend of the family guided us in discussions of one chapter every month. We found it very engaging and helpful.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Catholic Book of Quotations

Book cover: 'Catholic Book of Quotations'
Author(s): 
Leo Knowles
Copyright: 
2004
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
400 pages
Review: 

This inexpensive paperback offers a wide variety of memorable Catholic quotations from both ancient and modern sources. The book is organized according to subject. Here are just a few: Abortion, Art, Baptism, Blessed Sacrament, Conscience, Devil, Divine Mercy, Dying Words, Family, Fasting, Free Will, Generosity, Grace, Guardian Angel, Incarnation, Justice, Marriage, Our Lady, Prayer, Priesthood, Rosary, Sin, Suffering, Transubstantiation, Virtue and Vocation. Authors quoted in this work include: St. Augustine, Pope John Paul II, Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, St. Josemaria Escriva, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, G. K. Chesterton, Charles P�guy, St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Padre Pio. There are a few authors that might raise a few eyebrows, but I didn't find anything off-base. I've really enjoyed having this around the house to find some inspiration, highlight an idea when writing to someone or complete a special project (I just made a plaque for my daughter's room with a quote from St. Francis that I found in this book).

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
2-21-05
Reviewed by: 

Catholic Bookmark Kit from Illuminated Ink

Publisher: 
Illuminated Ink
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

The Catholic Bookmark Kit includes 15 ready-to-color 3” by 8” durable card stock bookmarks with 5 different designs, including a Psalm verse, several clever sayings, such as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (BIBLE), or a Catholic quote (“The worst prison is a closed heart” by Pope John Paul II), all reminding children of the spiritual values of their faith. The artwork is bold, dramatic, fun, and professional looking. To make them last even longer, you may want to laminate them.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
5-2-2006
Reviewed by: 

Common Ground

What Catholics and Protestants Can Learn from Each Other
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Kensington Community Church
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This DVD presents an engaging dialogue (Question and Answer format) between a Catholic priest and a Protestant minister. Produced by a Protestant Church, it primarily consists of common Protestant Questions/Objections about the Catholic Faith that are answered by the priest.

The priest's responses are succinct, respectful and quite insightful. Not only are they theologically solid, but they present creative and helpful ways of explaining authentic doctrine to others. The atmosphere of the dialogue is strikingly honest and open - including personal stories and anecdotes that helpfully connect ideas to reality.

I found that it took me a long time to get through this DVD not because it was boring, but because (given that I don't have enough time to watch it in one sitting), I kept finding myself starting a little earlier in the DVD than where I had previously finished, so that I could hear the explanations one more time. This is great stuff - a beautiful illustration of ecumenical dialogue AND a rather succint explanation of Catholic doctrine - particularly for anyone wanting to learn more about their faith.

Topics include: Salvation, the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother, the Saints, Confession, Religious Images, prayer and the importance of charitable dialogue.

Review Date: 
3-3-2008
Reviewed by: 

Fishers of Men

Copyright: 
2005
Publisher: 
www.grassrootsfilms.com
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

Do you have a son who is open to the vocation of the priesthood? He doesn’t have to be college age to become totally absorbed in this outstanding documentary-drama Fishers of Men. In fact, just about all ages from our homeschool group, with the exception of toddlers and preschoolers, previewed this film.

Created with the young person in mind, the visuals are bold, colorful, and dramatic with contemporary music that is at one moment gripping and intense and the next contemplative and soul searching. From the opening moments the viewer is immersed in a multi-layered story with visuals that guide the viewer from one scene to the next.

At one moment we see men flexing their muscles as they haul in huge, heavy fishing nets. Next we see a disciple on a lonely wind swept beach teaching a young man. We move on to another scene where Christ is shrouded in darkness at the Last Supper, sharing the Eucharist. Then we witness a priest candidly relating his call to the priesthood.

The visuals are always on the move, but the message remains the same. The priest is the face of Christ in the world. Therein lies the real strength of this film. Its powerful message is that the priesthood is a calling from God to those who want to do something remarkable for God.

Over and over again the film challenges the viewer with dramatic images to consider the role of the priesthood. What does he do? He is called to serve. He serves us at some of the most significant moments of our lives. He baptizes babies, celebrates mass, presides at weddings, blesses those who have died, hears confessions, and offers absolution to those who are dying. Priests serve as chaplains in the military, visit the elderly in nursing homes, offer consolation and confession to those in prison, and greet people after mass. We live a sacramental life. Where would we be without priests?

Living in a dazzling, noisy world that seeks to lure us away from Christ, this film also shows the stark contrast between the world we live in and the call to holiness, reminding us that the priest “administers the mysteries of God” to us.

We see a broad range of men from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds expressing their love, joy, and enthusiasm for the priesthood. Called by God, out of love, they are willing to enter a life of sacrifice. They challenge young men to consider the priesthood. “The priesthood is tough. It is for real men. You have to be a real man if you want to become a priest.”

A powerful film, Fishers of Men immerses our senses in the reality that we so easily forget that the priest is called to lay down his life as Jesus did. This inspiring film will amaze, refresh, and renew your love for your Catholic faith.

Because of one particularly heart wrenching reenactment, this movie may not be appropriate for very young children. Parental discretion for very, young sensitive children should be considered.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

DVD

Review Date: 
8-7-2007
Reviewed by: 

Little Acts of Grace

Author(s): 
Rosemarie Gortler
Donna Piscitelli
Illustrator(s): 
Mimi Sternhagen
Copyright: 
2002
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
48 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a friendly little introduction for children to the small ways that they can show love to God. It's a combination of a book of manners (since there are explanations of how to behave at Church - and why) with a simple devotional theme that is accessible to young children. What a great idea!

Children are gently encouraged to bow their head when Jesus' name is said, show a sign of affection when they pass by a Catholic Church because Jesus is present in the tabernacle, and say a prayer when they see an ambulance go by. Regarding Holy Mass, the book encourages and explains why we dress appropriately for Mass, bless ourselves with holy water, genuflect, and try to pay attention even when it's hard. There are also parts of Mass that are illustrated and explained (both how we act and what is happening): the "Lord Have Mercy" prayer, The Prayer Before the Gospel (and the special signs we make at that time), The Consecration and Communion. The book concludes with the theme of prayer, including why and how we pray to Mary, to the Saints and to the Angels and prayers for mealtime and bedtime.

Each subject is covered with a colorful illustration on one side of the page and a page of text (including a Bible quote). It's perfect for children preparing for their First Communion, but could certainly be enjoyed by younger children too.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-20-07
Reviewed by: 

Memorize the Faith! (and Most Anything Else): Using the Methods of the Great Catholic medieval Memory Masters

Author(s): 
Kevin Vost
Copyright: 
2006
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
271 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is neither a textbook nor a homeschool book, yet it could very well serve as basis for a religion curriculum for a year! The author, Kevin Vost Psy. D., teaches not only a time-proved, centuries old method of memorization, he also guides readers step by step through memorizing the major tenets of the Faith.

The book has the usual uncluttered, crisp Sophia Press lay-out, and is divided into 5 major parts. Part 1 introduces the method and explains how it works, in a language accessible to an average reader. Parts 2 and 3 include step-by-step guides to memorizing lists from Sacraments and Commandments to Beatitudes, to works of Mercy, Holy Days of Obligation and even the Six Sins against the Holy Spirit. Part 4 goes further into memorization of important basics of our faith, covering all of the books of Bible, the Twenty-One centuries of Church History, virtues, sins, and the list goes on. Truly impressive! Along with these five major parts, there are twenty-nine Memory Master Tips and Facts gray blurbs throughout the book that are informative and interesting as well.

From the publisher:

" (...) over 700 years ago, St. Thomas Aquinas perfected an easy method for his students to memorize most any information, but especially the truths taught by Christ and His Church. As the years passed, our need for this ancient art of memorization grew, yet somehow our culture largely forgot it . . . which is why today, when you and I try to remember a list of things, we have to repeat their names over and over. (...) Now, thanks to the delightful pages of Memorize the Faith!, you can easily keep all these in mind — and learn the Faith! — by tapping into the power of the classical memory system that helped St. Thomas become the Church’s preeminent theologian, and made it easier for him to become one of its greatest saints. (...) By the time you finish this book, you will have memorized dozens of key teachings of the Church, along with hundreds of precepts, traditions, theological terms, Scripture verses, and other elements of the Faith that every good Catholic needs to know by heart."

The best as far as homeschoolers are concerned is the fifth part, entitled "Application for all ages". Here the author addresses exactly the business of how to use the book for children and young adults, and more. Under specific homeschool use he suggests using the method for test prep--such as SAT, ACT, etc., and as and aid to good public speaking.

This book would also lend itself well, I think, to an extra-curricular club activity of middle/high school students, perhaps under the name "Aquinas Mnemonics Club". As the the author states, the ages that would be best suited to learn and use this method would be upper elementary and High School. If they would meet once weekly with the energy and camaraderie typical of that age, I bet they'd have the content of all of these chapters under their belts (or in their minds) in one year!

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-30-2007
Reviewed by: 

Our Sunday Visitor's 2008 Catholic Almanac

Author(s): 
Matthew Bunson, general editor
Copyright: 
2008
Publisher: 
Our Sunday Visitor
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
640 pages
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This is a fantastic reference book for a wide variety of reasons - especially for those who don't have Internet access or who don't want their children to do searches on the Internet.

Our Sunday Visitor has been publishing an annual Catholic Almanac for over one hundred years. Teachers, educators, parents and many others will find a great deal of useful and well-organized information at their finger-tips.

The text is divided into four main sections with numerous sub categories beneath each one. Here's a quick overview:

Part One: News and Events:

The Year in Review and News in Depth(includes segments on Pope Benedict XVI, Papal Documents and Announcements, Special Reports on International News, Special Reports on National News, Life Issues and Meetings of U.S. Bishops)

Part Two: The Teachings of the Catholic Church

Doctrine of the Catholic Church, Glossary, The Church Calendar, Liturgical Life of the Church, The Sacraments of the Church and The Communion of Saints.

Part Three: The Church Universal

Dates and Events in Catholic History, The Papacy and the Holy See, The Roman Curia, Hierarchy of the Catholic Church, The Universal Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, The Catholic Church in the U.S., United States Hierarchy, Biographies of American Bishops, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Minority Catholics in the U.S., Statistics of the Church in the U.S., The Catholic Church in Canada, The Catholic Church in Mexico.

Part Four: The Life of the Church in the World

Consecrated Life, Apostolates and Ministries, Catholic Social Services, Education, Catholic Communications, Ecumenism and Interreligous Dialogue, Separated Eastern Churches, Reformation Churches, Interreligious Dialogue.

Although this is a complete list of main categories and general topics, it doesn't give a sense of the detail and usefulness of the overall content. I'll try to give a few examples that might be particular useful to Catholic homeschool families, to give a sense of the content:

In the section on "The Papacy and the Holy See" from Part Three, you'll find (among other things) a complete lists of popes as well as a more detailed overview of the Popes of the 20th Century. Here's a one of the segments (entitled "Peace Efforts") of the mini-biography of Pope Pius XII, who was Pope during World War II. I think this gives a good sense of the important facts which have been carefully chose and supported in the text:

Before the start of World War II, he tried unsuccessfully to get the contending nations - Germany and Poland, France and Italy- to settle their differences peaceably. During the war, he offered his services to mediate the widened conflict, spoke out against the horrors of war and the suffering it caused, mobilized relief work for its victims, proposed a five-point program for peace in Christmas messages from 1939 to 1942, and secured a generally open status for the city of Rome. He has been criticized in some quarters for not doing enough to oppose the Holocaust. This is a matter of historical debate, but it is a fact that through his direct intercession many thousands of Jews in Rome and Italy were saved from certain death, and he resisted wherever possible the threat of Nazism to human rights. Such were his contributions to assisting Jews that the rabbi of Rome, Dr. Abraham Zolli, was converted to Catholicism, and upon his death, Pius was praised by Golda Meir for his efforts. After the war, he endorsed the principles and intent of the U.N. and continued efforts for peace.

Also, in the same overall section is a 36 page country-by-country overview of Catholic statistics (number of religious, Catholic population, percent of the total population that is Catholic and things like that) and a paragraph briefly explaining the history of the faith in each country. It's a wonderful supplement to geographical studies and a place to find interesting information on current missionary efforts of the Church. I could readily imagine homeschool families choosing countries with small minorities of Catholics (such as Turkmenistan, which has only two priests to serve a population of approximately 1000 Catholics).

Here is a list of some of the other resources contained in this Almanac that may be of interest (there are many, many more besides these):

  • Books of the Bible (including information on books that are rejected by Protestant denominations and overviews of each book)
  • A mini Old Testament Bible timeline
  • A list of Apostolic Fathers, Fathers of the Church and Doctors of the Church with a brief biography of each
  • A 32 page Catholic Glossary
  • A detailed liturgical calendar
  • An overview of major Holy Days and other Observances
  • Extensive listing of saints, including a list of traditional Patrons and Intercessors and recent Canonizations
  • A ten page timeline of Catholic History
  • A listing of all Papal Encyclicals from 1740 to the present day (The most recent encyclical included here is Deus Caritas Est)
  • A Chronology of U.S. Catholic History
  • A list of missionaries (with very brief biographies) to the Americas
  • Lists of Cathedrals, Basilicas and Shrines in the United States
  • An extensive listing of Catholic Colleges and Universities, including website and phone number, and current enrollment.

Because of the nature of this resource, I have not done a thorough read-through, but everything I've seen (and I've spent a number of hours poring through this) has been very solid. The book does contain some material that may not be suitable for young children, including a mention on the front cover of "An Update on the Sexual Abuse Scandal".

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
4-19-2008
Reviewed by: 

Rosary Rummy

Publisher: 
jody's Hands-On Learning
Binding: 
Other
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a lovely and inexpensive Rummy game that also teaches the mysteries of the rosary. It includes two colorful cards, illustrated with Old Masters paintings, for each 0f the twenty mysteries of the rosary. The Rummy game requires both matching and ordering the mysteries. Instructions are included.

So far, we've been using it as a memory game - and even my five year old (who admittedly is a memory enthusiast) loves it. It actually has some weaknesses as a memory game (too busy on the backs of the cards, images are rather small) that don't detract at all from its intended purpose.

Available from jody's Hands-on Learning

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1-14-2009
Reviewed by: 

Saint Search Game from Illuminated Ink

Publisher: 
Illuminated Ink
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

The Saint Search Game is played in the same fashion as Bingo. After picking a saint token from the pile, instead of covering a number on a square, the player crowns the saint with a golden nimbus (token). The player to cover the first row, horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, wins. An alternate version for longer play is to cover the whole card. Another method of play not mentioned is to cover just the four corners. The cards use the same 40 saints and symbols found in the Litany game. Since both symbols and names are used on the game cards and tokens, children do not need to be able to read in order to play the game. If an older child or adult is playing, they could read the information from the booklet while the children are covering their saints. Each game comes with 12 playing boards (5” x 6 ½” cards), 40 saint tokens, 200 golden nimbuses and a saint symbol information booklet (This is the same booklet as found in Litany.). For a new fun twist on Bingo that reminds children of the saints, the Saint Search Game is sure to be a hit.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
5-2-2006
Reviewed by: 

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